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Fonda San Miguel - what am I missing?

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I just took my family to brunch at FSM this past Sunday, in part due to recommendations received here. We knew it would be a buffet, and that the choices would be different than what we were used to (we are recent transplants from L.A.). We made reservations for 11am, since we had my 2.5 yr old and 3 month old I thought that would make it easier. at 11:15 we were still waiting to be seated. After finally being called by the hostess, we were directed to a table which was being fully assaulted by the sun through an un-shaded window. My 3-month old is sleeping, and I can't put her down anywhere because of the sun. By the time I turn around to protest, the hostess has left. We find a spot to hide the baby under the table and my son and I put our sunglasses on (seriously).

We eat a very good meal consisting of migas, ceviche, guacamole, lamb chops, chicken in mole verde, Mexican spoonbread and very good desserts. Everything was very good and a nice mix of familiar and new flavors for us to try. As I consider unbuttoning my pants for another run at the dessert bar, the waiter brings the bill. Having not seen any information on the cost of this brunch, I had guessed that the bill would be $18 each ("C'mon! this is Austin, not L.A.!!) and my wife guessed $23 each. When I opened the check to find $38.95 each!!!! Are you kidding me? There are restaurants in New York that would blush charging that much for DINNER! And I got "dogfish ceviche"?? PLEASE!

I fear that Austin is being duped into believing this is worth it. Well I'm here to tell you that it's not. Brunch was good, not great. Service was marginal, though friendly. The ambiance was lovely (except for the suntan I received). But $40? Keep in mind that I won't blink at dropping some cash to eat great food, but this was brunch!!! Did I mention that the $40 DID NOT include Mimosas or Bloody Mary's? They were $3.50 each...

Anyway, that's my rant...I won't be back, as nice a meal as it was, until they halve their price...at least...

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  1. Sorry you feel you were ripped off. Considering that the array being offered is vast and the overall quality is excellent (with room for variation depending on personal taste) I think it's a splurge, but not a ripoff. I've paid that much for the dinner buffet at Bellagio and was not particularly impressed...not a single dish that I went back for seconds.

    On the other hand, if it weren't gauche, I would lie on the floor in front of FSM's corn pudding with a funnel in my mouth and be force fed until I expired.

    Don't hold your breath on a price reduction...this is high-level, regional Mex food prepared by one of the most authoritative chefs on the subject. Miguel is up there with Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy when it comes to knowledge of real Mexican cuisine. And his prices are in line with the offerings from those 2 venerable chefs.

    1. I'm also sorry that you were disappointed, but I don't feel duped at all. It has been discussed on this board as an "expensive" place to visit "when you have coin to drop" or have an expense account. It is usually considered along with Green Pastures ($30.00) and the Four Seasons. I paid $38 for brunch at Biga on the Banks in San Antonio.

      The amount of preparation that goes into many of their dishes is immense, and the chef is always willing to discuss the flavors of their amazing sauces (I think one of their moles had 25+ ingredients) and to make recommendations. I discover something new every time I eat there. I think the food is outstanding, the restaurant is beautiful, and it is a very unique and special splurge. My aunt and uncle travel the world with a Michelin guide, and they thought it was spectacular.

      And I have never been lucky enough to find lamb chops on the serving table! Damn! Have to go back!

      4 Replies
      1. re: saticoy

        The lamb chops were quite yummy.

        Perhaps "duped" was a poor characterization, as it implies that the customer doesn't know any better. That is not what I meant. Simply that the cost was not in line (IMHO) with the product, Obviously I am in the minority, as FSM seems to have a huge following! I would like to try them for lunch or dinner some time, as perhaps Chef Miguel's cpabilities would be best showcased withthose meals.

        Thanks for your feedback!

        1. re: Bababooey

          Personally, I wouldn't recommend returning to FSM for dinner because the odds are higher that you will get stuck with a small serving of an expensive dish that is underwhelming. At least at brunch, you can pick and choose your poison.

          By the way, regardless of whether customers are duped or not, I agree that the food at FSM is not as delicious or innovative as one expects at that price point (and I've dined at Diana Kennedy's and Rick Bayless's restaurants, for what it's worth). Reputation isn't everything.

          Neither is unanimity: Other 'hounds have shared your point of view.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352940

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93182

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/304597

          Thanks for posting your opinion. And please keep the reviews coming!
          MPH

          1. re: MPH

            Yours is the second comment regarding the lack of innovation at FSM. This would tend to indicate a lack of understanding. If you are seeking cutting edge cuisine don't go to FSM!

            Miguel is not about being innovative, he is about being true to Central Mexican cuisine and applying his knowledge and technique to craft dishes of superior quality that represent the cuisine to it's fullest.

            And not delicious? You've got to be kidding...

            1. re: GroovinGourmet

              I'm totally serious. I've had better-tasting versions of carne guisada, chicken en mole pipian, and nopalitos (to name just a few dishes) in humble taquerías on the east side of town. And Austin is not exactly famous for its many authentic taquerías.

              By innovative, I mean up-to-date with what's going on in Central-Mexican cooking. The cuisine hasn't frozen in time. Fonda San Miguel seems like it has.

              Surely you’re not suggesting that everyone who doesn't love FSM merely doesn't "understand" the cuisine?

              Best,
              MPH

      2. I love FSM and I go back whenever I'm in town. I wouldn't miss it. Yes, it's expensive! I used to go to the brunch when it was only about $22 or something, but I keep shrugging off the price increases because of that wonderful spread.

        1. I like Fonda San Miguel for the atmosphere, but in terms of food, I've had better. If you compare Fonda San Miguel to places in other cities such (and I'm only mentioning these two because they are two that I've tried) Topolobampo in Chicago and Rosa Mexicano in NYC, Fonda San Miguel just doesn't stand up to the competition. I hate to say that because I am an Austinite and want to be a cheerleader for good Mexican food in town (as opposed to Tex Mex), but FSM is just not all that in terms of food. It's good in theory, but the execution is just okay. I had a much better, mind-blowing in fact, meal at a strip mall owned by a family from Mexico. Granted, I probably wouldn't go there on a regular basis because the atmosphere is kind of dull, but the food was way better than Fonda.

          So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I can see Bababooey's point. Fonda is good, but it's a bit trumped up.

          1. $40?!? It was $32 when I went last year.

            I have enjoyed their brunch in the past and looked forward to returning when I visit Austin in March, but for $40pp I will have to consider other options.

            Is it a rip off? That is a tough one. At $40 it has moved off of my Top 10 Brunch Spots.
            For $30 I would take brunch at the commanders palace (which includes a drink) and bruch at the Mansion on Turtle Creek ($30).